Grover Norquist: Defense Cuts Need To Be On The Table


I don’t entirely agree with Norquist’s jab at the missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, though I’ll not pretend that either mission was perfect, but he’s right. Republicans need to stop carrying on as though prudent review and reform of military spending were somehow tantamount to inviting our enemies in through the front door.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, his would-be vice president Paul Ryan, and defense hawks in Congress are wrong that savings can’t be found in the U.S. defense budget, according to Grover Norquist, the influential president of Americans for Tax Reform, who said that he will fight using any new revenues to keep military spending high.

“We can afford to have an adequate national defense which keeps us free and safe and keeps everybody afraid to throw a punch at us, as long as we don’t make some of the decisions that previous administrations have, which is to over extend ourselves overseas and think we can run foreign governments,” Norquist said Monday at an event at the Center for the National Interest, formerly the Nixon Center.

But Ryan’s views are at odds with those of Norquist and other budget hawks, who argue that defense budgets can be trimmed. Ryan’s budget plan provides for increasing military spending and doesn’t suggest any tradeoff or specific defense reforms.

“Other people need to lead the argument on how can conservatives lead a fight to have a serious national defense without wasting money,” Norquist said. “I wouldn’t ask Ryan to be the reformer of the defense establishment.”

Back during the early days of the Bush administration, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld talked about a massive reorganization and redeployment of the military globally. Rumsfeld pointed out that many of our overseas deployments areas were located as though we were still facing Cold War-era threats, and that we could save a lot of money while making our military more effective by redeploying our troops to recognize more modern threats and modern military capacities.

Nothing ever really came of that, mostly I think because the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the resulting political turmoil overshadowed it, but it was a good idea then and it’s a good idea now.

Standing in the way, unfortunately, is knee-jerk opposition from the right to any proposed military budget reforms. The right reacts to defense spending reforms in the same way Democrats react to entitlement reforms. With thinly-veiled hysteria and unfair invective.

That needs to stop. Just like any other branch of government, the military shouldn’t be immune to accountability.

Rob Port is the editor of In 2011 he was a finalist for the Watch Dog of the Year from the Sam Adams Alliance and winner of the Americans For Prosperity Award for Online Excellence. In 2013 the Washington Post named SAB one of the nation's top state-based political blogs, and named Rob one of the state's best political reporters.

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  • Jamer Morrow

    The Wars have nothing to do with terrorism and a lot to do with money. The terrorists left Afghanistan right after we got there. Iraq never really had any terrorist problems. Rebuilding either country is a waste of time. No American death is worth doing anything for the back ass people in the Middle East.

    • robert108

      “The Wars have nothing to do with terrorism and a lot to do with money.”
      LIE. When President Bush was fighting the terrorists, we killed them over there; now, with President Weakfish, they are coming over here. Not a good development. When you run from the terrorists, they come after you.
      “The terrorists left Afghanistan right after we got there.”
      LIE. Not only are they still there, but Iran is now funding them.
      “Iraq never really had any terrorist problems.”
      LIE. Saddam was not only a terrorist himself, but he gave refuge and training grounds to AQ, including some aircraft bodies which were used to train for 9/11. Furthermore, he had plans to invade Saudi and become the Hitler of the ME.
      “Rebuilding either country is a waste of time.”
      WRONG. Had we deposed Saddam in ’90 and rebuilt Iraq at that time, it’s likely that the ME would not be the center of terrorism it is today. A strong and free Iraq would have been a counter to the insane fools in Iran, and AQ would not have had a staging ground for 9/11 and numerous other terrorist attacks before that.
      Nice racism, btw.

      • banjo kid

        We left Iraq to soon .

      • Jamer Morrow

        When where you there again? How many terrorists did you kill?

        • robert108

          Nice try to change the subject, after I smacked your lies with the truth.

      • Grizzler1

        “President Weakfish”
        Nice little fishy. Equating obama with yourself is very apt. Thats the kind of comparison that makes sense. you are both neo-liberals with little or no spine. Impotence becomes you both. No doubt you would agree on a plethora of concepts, especially in terms of personal freedom and the right to live a life unencumbered by government oversight. you each glom onto different specifics, but the mindset is the same.

        • robert108

          Still stuck on stupid, I see.

  • SigFan

    There is surely waste and overspending on defense as there is with everything else the federal government does. The key is to use the resources available wisely and effectively. As an example of our ineptitude though, there was an article out yesterday about a Russian nuclear attack submarine that was patrolling undetected in the Gulf of Mexico for months. Seems like for what we spend that’s something we should have had no problem detecting.

    Don’t get me wrong. I believe in a strong national defense and fully support the constitutional duty of our government to provide for that. I am also a strong supporter of our military personnel – God Bless every single one of them for all they do. But we do spend far too much inefficiently and ineffectively. Cuts to defense can and should be enacted.

    • Neiman


    • mikemc1970


    • Emil Kashuntz

      Grover is going back to Sesame Street if doesn’t get with the program. Republicans love pissing away money on defense. They hate helping people, so what has Grover been thinking.

  • Neiman

    There is no doubt the military needs to get its spending under control, some of it is obscene in the extreme. it must become more efficient in its use of our resources. There is no doubt in my mind we must reign in the idea that we should stay in such war zones and rebuild the nations of our former enemies. There is no doubt that with modern technology, man power can be reduced and used more efficiently. Yet, absent the most powerful military in the world, we lose much of our influence in the world. It is a delicate balancing act that requires our best efforts for our future and we must become deaf to the military haters and those that would use it as a social sciences laboratory for their politically correct experiments in social/sexual engineering.

    Nonetheless, it always makes me uneasy when liberals and/or those that refuse to wear our nation’s uniform and go into harms way in defense of liberty, set themselves up as experts on defense spending and on military matters. We will pay a big price in the future for their folly, unless we oppose them in their arm chair general, big mouthed self appointed expertise on something about which they are so woefully ignorant.

    • Roy_Bean

      In the early years of Iraq/Afganistan many good young people were getting injured and killed because they were driving unarmoured humvees. When he was criticized for it Rumsfeld said “you go to war with the army you have, not the army you want”. We all share some blame for thinking more about paying off the national debt than protecting the young men who protect us. We do have to spend wisely but the next time it is necessary to go to war we should see to it that we have the army we want from the beginning.

      • Neiman

        No argument from me! We need to spend wisely and that means a lot of nonsense in the military too, we need to be smart. We need to make sure our troops have the tools and protections they need. We do not have to sacrifice troop safety and care, but we can cut costs a lot.

        • robert108

          Then there are the insane “Rules of Engagement” which were responsible for many troop deaths.

    • robert108

      The real danger with this “cut the military” mania is that it will be done by Democrat politicians, who just are in denial of how important it is to defend both our country and our borders. Their position on border security should disqualify them from having anything to say about military spending. I find it hard to understand why you have attacked me for wanting to cut wasteful social spending, but are now advocating for cutting the military. Curious.

  • banjo kid

    If they stop paying thirty bucks per screw and less than 300 bucks for toilet seats we would not have to cut spending . It really takes the cake that the sellers to the defense are into ripping their own country off and is an appalling aspect of life today. Every thing from ammo to fire arms needs to be reviewed and if there is apparent over charging look to another supplier or have them adjust the price with in reason. To cut spending with out looking at fraud is not smart .

    • Neiman

      I agree, but let us not paint with too broad a brush and condemn them all. Some major screw-ups and institutional faults to be sure, but, most are dedicated to our defense.

    • awfulorv

      and $600 for firefighters back packs which, to a generous eye, should go for max $150. It seems never to stop…

  • John_Wayne_American

    remove all from South Korea, except 2 minuteman bases with 8-10 nukes each, draw a line just south of the DMZ if anyone crosses it all 16 birds fly at once.

    Get everyone the hell out of Serbia, the Euros can handle their own problems, then go base by base in Germany and the rest of the world, cut the size of each base down to a skeleton maintenance crew and a security detail.

    Bring the troops back home so they can be close to their families could be more easily deployed to a new arena etc. Maybe we could build a new training grounds along 200 miles of the southern border, we all know about the no trespass signs on those bases.

    Put state prisoners on a work release program to do some of the more mienal things that the military sub contracts for, lawn mantenace, garbage collection, cleaning etc.

    • awfulorv

      There are many “tough as nails” prisoners eager to be released into society on parole today.There are, also, many battered wives, girlfriends, and especially children living in fear of “Beater” men. How’s about we take a tough SOB, parolee, call him “Animal”, and say we’re putting him in charge of protecting this little girl, and her mother, who’ve had some problems with “Beater” man over there. Animal will receive $150-$200 per week to help him get back on his feet. Only thing is, you, “Animal” will have a “talk” with “Beater” man, and look in on the three of them daily. And, it will be understood, that if there’s ever a mark on either the mother ,or child, there will be big assed trouble ensuing. I believe in the goodness of most people, be they a prisoner, black or white, whatever, or not. I also,tragically, read of six year old girls, skinny as a rail when they’re found, who’ve been made to stand in, or lay in a locker, when it’s 110 degrees on the exterior of the locker, likely 125 within, till they die an agonizng death. How could there be a God who’d let something like this happen to these poor children? I don’t want them to be under the impotent, it would seem, protection of a God like this. I’d rather they were protected by Animal over here, and I know they’d sleep better at night also. Just a heartfelt idea which, I hope,some authority might try, as I can’t take much more of the heinous torture some innocent child is being subjected to, perhaps at this moment. Of course to you Liberals this would be violating Beater mans rights. Of course you’d think that way, you’re against everything decent. But what of the little girl? Should she , and her mother not be the first to be protected? Thanks for reading this.

  • Random Passerby

    I won’t disagree with your central premise Rob, but I have a counter question:
    In the age old battle of the guns vs butter debate I have to ask: what program or corresponding set of programs matches, has matched, or will match any cuts from the guns side of the budget?
    It is common to hear of billions cut from defense programs…I don’t hear much in the way of billions being cut from anything else.

    • yy4u2

      That is a great question. Perhaps I am wrong with this assumption, yet I’ll stick my neck out…the libs want defense cut in a big way. They will promise to cut or at least look at cutting one of ‘their’ pet projects. Lo and behold, conservatives cut what they promised, libs look at it like ‘mo money fo me and some vote buyin’,’ scare tactics ensue from the libs that the conservative project really didn’t need that money in the first place and look what we can do with it to ‘help’ you out. That is probably why we don’t hear of cuts from anything else.

      • Random Passerby

        That is how I define ‘compromise’ in the current political world today(give us half now, we will collect the other half later, but you need to sacrifice now and in full).
        But what I see, is they will agree to cut the GROWTH of future spending (with the usual tactics that wind up cutting nothing as you say) they in effect say ‘cut $10 from guns and we will cut 10% off our butter increase request in 2020.
        When the time comes for the butter vote ‘oh no we can’t cut the butter grandma uses, you trying to throw her off the cliff! and since we have this lovely surplus, lets add that in because grandma’s need more butter because of etc etc ad nauseum’
        Until and unless there are real, matching or deeper cuts from butter programs I am opposed to any defense cuts. Defense takes up, what? 5% of spending nowadays, as opposed to entitlements at 14% (and growing at an accelerating rate). I will not complain one whit…once they are equalized. a dollar for guns = a dollar for butter.

        • borborygmi

          The Democrats need to cut programs near and dear to them and the Republicans need to cut programs near and dear to them. That is the beginning of a balanced budget.

  • Emil Kashuntz

    Wasting money on the military is as American as Republican apple pie. Something has gone terribly wrong here.

  • Waski_the_Squirrel

    One of the weaknesses on the right is our typical blindness on defense spending. We are somewhat less blind on entitlement spending. On the left, the reverse is typically true.

    I’m glad to hear someone on the right bringing attention to our blind spot. I’m hoping that we can see cuts to defense and entitlements. Unfortunately, these will be painful cuts, so politicians on both sides are terrified to make them. Instead they flirt with “pork barrel” spending cuts that make great sound bytes but very little actual difference.

    • robert108

      So says the left wing military hater.

      • Waski_the_Squirrel

        I’m unsure if you are calling me that (which would imply you really know nothing about me) or you are calling Mr. Norquist that name. On a quick internet search, I can find very little that would make him any of these things.

        We do waste a lot of money in the military. Bases should be closed both nationally and internationally. We buy weapons that are too expensive to maintain during a war. The military is filled with inefficiencies. And I was really impressed by a Marine recruiter who noted that he can’t offer all the fun inducements that other branches could offer for enlistment. His branch was dedicated to fighting and service.

        Our military should be pared back. Politicians have actually stood in the way of attempts by our military to focus on the essentials. Politicians fight base closures and they will fight to keep particular programs going, even if the military thinks the base should be closed or the program ended.

  • Grizzler1

    I agree with Sig. Accountablilty from the DOD would be great, though like any other government entity, the military is stuck with a system that rewards overspending and discourages efficiency. Nothing short of meaningful budget restraints will force them to get their shop in order.

  • Mike Peterson

    You’re absolutely right, Republicans need to slow down. I think we could cut into our military overseas operations big time, and not lose one dime on defense at home. If we honored the 2nd Amendment, kept our men and women at home, nobody would touch us because as a famous Japanese general from WWII said, “there’s a gun behind every blade of grass in America.” Let’s stop giving the world a reason to hate us.

    • borborygmi

      Channeling Ron Paul?

  • Snarkie

    Crony capitalism will prevent any serious defense spending review, but the GOPs are too smug to admit it because they think only Dems capable of such things.

    I wonder which parties United Defense supports?

    • robert108

      The Democrats are fascists(what you call crony capitalists).